Back To The Future: Here and Now
February 10, 2007 by Martin K. Fabe
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As the quality of professional wrestling deteriorates at an alarming rate, the intense demand for kayfabe content has ascended to its highest peak in the history of the wrestling and sports entertainment industry. Vinnie Junior has been on a mission to drive away the old-school fans from their life-long passion, in an attempt to win over the casual non-wrestling fan. In doing so, he has unwittingly created an immense void. The void has been filled for the recently established universal craving for wrestling kayfabe. Thank the Lord above for creating the almighty Internet, and giving us incredible websites like Online World of Wrestling, Slam! Wrestling, Kayfabe Memories, and a multitude of other world-wide-web destinations paying tribute to the history of professional wrestling.
The Internet has also provided us old-timers with a couple of unique forums for which we can use to unleash our passion for the way it was, and the way we wish it still could be. The WrestlingClassics.com website has a wonderful Message Board visited by many industry insiders and dedicated historians; as does the phenomenal KayfabeMemories.com page. Some people love to participate in the lively conversations that take place on the board, but there are also legions of voyeurs who sign up only to lurk in the shadows soaking up all the beefy nostalgia. It never ceases to amaze me how many people out there who still care enough about professional wrestling before it became a three ring circus attraction.
Unless you are a hardcore tape trader, there isn't much out there in terms of video tape or DVD, due to Vinnie Junior owning most of the video libraries. However, there is no shortage of Kayfabe-era books out there that can easily satisfy your cravings. Here are my recommendations; Lou Thesz: Hooker, Frank Gotch: An American Hero, Bodyslams!: Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman (by Gary Michael Cappetta), Arn Anderson Forever, Every Man Has His Price (by Ted DiBiase), Tributes and Tributes II (by Dave Meltzer), Top 100 Wrestlers of All-Time (by John Molinaro), Stu Hart: Lord of the Ring, Broken Harts (by Martha Hart), In the Pit with Piper (by Roddy Piper), It's Good To Be The King (by Jerry Lawler), Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks (by Fred Blassie), Bobby The Brain and Chairshots & other Obstacles (both by Bobby Heenan), Banner Days (by Penny Banner), BRISCO (by Jack Brisco), Inside Out (by Ole Anderson), To Be The Man (by Ric Flair), Reflections of an American Dream (by Dusty Rhodes), The Hardcore Legend (by Terry Funk), King of the Ring (by Harley Race), Mouth of the South (by Jimmy Hart), Something Left Behind (by the daughter of Gordon Solie), Wrestler's Are Like Seagulls (by JJ Dillon), The Sheikh of Bagdad (by Adan El Kaisee), Walking a Golden Mile (by William Regal), Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians (by Greg Oliver), Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (by Greg Oliver & Stephen Johnson), Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels (by Greg Oliver & Stephen Johnson), Cheating Lie, Stealing Death (by Eddie Guerrero), Wooo.. Mercy Daddy! (by Jimmy Valiant), Tangled Ropes (by Billy Graham), Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling (by Heath McCoy), Cowboy at the Cross (by Bill Watts), Assassin: The Man Behind the Mask (by Jody Hamilton), Bang Your Head (by The Missing Link), and if you are ready to really get schooled, pick up Piledriver: The Life of Charles "Midget" Fischer.
The evolution of turning back the grappling clocks has resulted in a series of legends reunions and conventions all over the country. The original wrestling reunion epicenter, which has been going on for decades now is the folkloric annual gathering of the Cauliflower Ally Club in the city of Las Vegas. The CAC is attended by hundreds of wrestlers (new and old), fans, historians, writers, and their families for a wild weekend jam-packed with personal recollections leading to inevitable fits of laughter and tears until that very end. Other reunions have been assembled around the country, and many of the retired legends come out of the woodwork to relive their glory days in the spotlight of the fans admiration and to be the center of the fans attention, if only for one more time. It's a touching symbol of the times, when fans are so turned off by the current product that they flock back to the men and women who they loved, and loved to hate, during what they consider "better" times.
Those who are fortunate enough to have maintained a slight control over their health and overall well-being have pushed the envelope and donned the tights and stepped into the ring once again; They end up supplying the independent circuit with a much needed dose of traditional work ethic. While not quite as fast as they once were, these time-tested warriors still manage to bring fans to the shows, albeit on name recognition only. The down-side is that fans end up seeing aged and worn down version of the athletes they once went crazy for. Most audiences will not hold that against a worker, as they unconsciously transform from a dubious ticket-holder into an absolute mark, waving their arms in the air and yelling at the top of their lungs. The art of professional wrestling returns and the fans become the unsuspecting victim - and they totally love it!
Across the country, independent promoters put on local events featuring a myriad of average wrestlers with average skills, and average ability. Promoters frost their cakes by bringing in one, two, sometimes four, or even more big names from the past time light up the marquee. Since nostalgia made its comeback several years ago, there have been many wrestlers coming out of retirement on a part-time basis to fill the fans prescription for wrestling psychology - or as I call it, "The Good Stuff".
"Beautiful" Bobby Eaton is one of the more prominent wrestlers to keep the dream alive. Eaten was as big of a star as just about anybody in the 80s, making up one half of perhaps the greatest tag team in wrestling history along with "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey and later "Sweet" Stan Lane. In fact, all three men have jumped on the bandwagon and for a few years, could be found tearing up the circuit in many southern territories.
Kamala is probably the most recognizable wrestler from the past who still makes regular appearances on independent cards all over the United States. Which is an amazing feat consider his size and stature. The same goes for WrestleMania II headliner King Kong Bundy, who makes intermittent appearances in the New Jersey area.
"Number 1" George South was the consummate jobber almost all his career, but he rules the Carolinas on almost a full-time basis helping to spread the kayfabe philosophies to younger wrestlers he works with.
The state of Alabama seems to be a hotbed for Nostalgia-based wrestling shows. There is no shortage of legends ready, willing and remarkably able to work a match against an old foe or a relative new-comer if need be. Robert Fuller, also known as Col. Robert Parker in WCW, and Tennessee Lee in the WWF, is still using his powers of persuasion to put fans into a frenzy as a manager, and occasional wrestler. His famous cousin and tag team partner Jimmy Golden, known as Bunkhouse Buck in WCW, joins him for the occasion appearance. The entire Armstrong family likes to get in on the action as well.
One of the busiest workers on an independent crusade is former Rock'N'Roll Express member Ricky Morton. He was engaged in a big-time feud with Dr. Tom Prichard for about a year just prior to Prichard's signing with WWE to train wrestlers at its Georgia-based developmental territory, Deep South Wrestling. Morton's tag team partner, Robert Gibson, often joined Morton on the road for brief reunions. The RNR's even rekindled their feud with the aforementioned Midnight Express all over the country in a string of successful tag team main events, which included a scaffold match, a cage match, and various other incarnations. Gibson now works for WWE as a Producer/Road Agent.
Believe it or not, the legendary former WWWF Heavyweight Champion, Ivan Koloff, still shows up at independent shows with his gear ready to rumble. If that doesn't blow your mind, add the fact that he still takes on young studs in his specialty, the Russian Chain match, and even wins every time!
The Boogie Woogie Man, Jimmy Valiant, still makes occasional non-wrestling appearances. Before his retirement in early 2005, he was still driving up and down the roads wrestling a full-schedule well into his 60s. Valiant is now passing along his old-school way of life onto his many students at Boogie's Wrestling Camp and Museum in Shawsville, Virginia.
The list of names still popping up on independent shows all over the world is endless, but here is a brief list of timeless entertainers; JJ Dillon, Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Tracy Smothers, Nickla "Babydoll" Roberts, "The Living Legend" Larry Zbyszko, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, Tito Santana, "Mr. USA" Tony Atlas, "Sensational" Sherri Martel, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, Honky Tonk Man, Jerry "The King" Lawler, "Wildfire" Tommy Rich, Dewey "The Missing Link" Robertson, Bambi, Bill "Demolition Ax/Masked Superstar" Eadie, Marty Jannetty, Doug Gilbert, "Nightmare" Ted Allen, Jay Eagle, The Cuban Assassin, The Barbarian, Adrian Street, Alex Porteau, Pat Tanaka, and yes, perhaps most amazing of all - Abdullah the Butcher!
I am no doubt forgetting many names; feel free to add to that list when you leave your feedback. Thank you for taking a trip with me back in time; We can only hope and pray that some time in wrestling's future, the past will somehow become the present again. But even if it doesn't, there will always be portions of the past that stick around like little rays of sunshine on a rainy day. Do yourselves a favor, and soak up those rays while you still can. Support your legends. That is all for now. Class dismissed.
by Martin K. Fabe (View/Submit your feedback here)..
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